Monday, February 12, 2007

Grease - YTOTIW: Stretching the Meaning of “Broadway Songs”

Wow. I don’t even know where to start in describing last night’s two-hour slaughter of everything I know and love about musical theatre. How to put it into perspective? Let’s say you were watching a revue of what was purported to be great rap songs, and the closest thing to rap was Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” You’d be pissed, right?

Last night on Grease: You’re the One that I Want, contestants ostensibly sang Broadway songs. Now, given that Andrew Lloyd Webber (symbol for everything that is wrong with Broadway today, and supremely creepy dude) was a guest judge, I expected the episode to be heavy on the Webber and light on the Sondheim. But Jesus freaking Christ—virtually every song that wasn’t written by Webber was from a goddamn jukebox or movie-based musical, and thus not even a Broadway song. In fact there was only one exception: a song from The Wiz, which is hardly a Broadway classic. Sigh. I’ll try to put my intense wrathfulness behind me and focus on the performances, but it’s gonna be tough.

Moving on…we have a new surprise twist! Apparently, the four Danny’s and Sandy’s with the fewest votes will compete in a sing-off for the judges, who will ultimately determine which two are eliminated. Considering this twist was totally unannounced prior to this episode, I’m guessing America screwed up last week and didn’t eliminate Matt and Ashley A., and the producers needed to give the judges a fail-safe, so that whoever they pick as best has no chance of being eliminated. Fair enough—America can be pretty dumb sometimes. Kind of ruins the point of the whole “America voting” thing though, eh?

First up tonight is Max, singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King.” His singing is fine, but the song requires no acting ability to pull off, and Max just comes across as kind of weird.

Next is Laura, singing “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which is coincidentally by our guest judge. I’m no Webber fan, but brave choice, since it’s not an easy song to sing (Max), requires acting (B-, Laura), and wasn’t written for a woman, or even one person. Fine job.

Derek sings “Footloose.” I’m sick of this shit already. You disappoint me, favorite Danny. Although that sleeveless top is making a valiant effort at assuaging me, as is the choreographed dancing. Rock on! And shame on the judges for not giving him more credit for the dancing, especially since it’s clearly not a requirement.

Ashley S. tells us she’s having vocal troubles this week, but forges ahead with “Take That Look Off Your Face,” from Webber’s “Tell Me on a Sunday.” Too bad she didn’t sing the titular song—I actually kind of like that one. At any rate, favorite Sandy, you are NOT rocking this song as well as I know you can. Do better! And act more, if your voice isn’t 100%. And pick a song you can dance to, since that’s one of your strengths. Nice belting at the end, though.

Kevin sings “Burning Love” from some Elvis jukebox musical, and does NOT rock it. Props again for dancing, though. Negative props for the weird giant hair. You have dropped off my favorites list, Kevin.

Juliana sings “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from my least-hated Webber musical. At least it’s a challenging song to sing, and she does a good job keeping a steady pace. I feel like not rushing would be the hardest part of singing this song. Well-played, Juliana, well-played.

Chad sings “My Eyes Adored You,” from “Jersey Boys” (the Four Seasons jukebox musical). Nice voice, but booooooring song choice and execution. Jesus Christ.

Kate sings “Buenos Aires,” also from my least-hated Webber musical. Nice, challenging song, too. Appropriate, since she’s one of the better vocalists. Well-acted, even. All right! Not her very best vocal work at times, but it’s a deceptively tough song, so I’ll forgive her. You’re on the favorites list, Kate!

Austin continues his creepy-but-talented-man-child streak with “Ease on Down the Road,” from “The Wiz.” I won’t criticize at all, since he’s the ONLY performer singing a song that isn’t either by Andrew Lloyd Webber or from a jukebox/movie-based musical.

Kathleen sings “Memories,” from “Cats.” Ugh, what a predictable choice. Stupid, if you ask me. Do you really want to beg a comparison to Betty Buckley or Elaine Page, Kathleen? Because trust me, that’s not a flattering comparison for you, however talented you may be. Fine job, and good emoting, but she seems a bit too mature for Sandy, possibly because she picked a song originally sung by an aged cat. Just sayin’.

And now, it’s time for the America Sucks Sing-Off. I really hope there’s a trap-door with a pit full of alligators involved! Oh, and America apparently likes talentless underdogs, because as I suspected, Matt and Ashley A. weren’t the bottom two. I don’t particularly love Jason and Allie, but what the hell, America? You obviously can’t be trusted with important decisions.

The sing-off is, as predicted, totally a bullshit way for the judges to pitch their least favorites. They take turns singing parts of “Tears on My Pillow,” a pretty easy song that even Matt is able to manage without totally screwing up. And…shocker of shockers…Ashley A. and Matt are out, and order is restored in the world. No thanks to you, America.

Jason, saved from elimination, sings “That’ll Be the Day,” from some Buddy Holly jukebox musical. This is so much bullshit I can’t even handle it. Billy Bush doesn’t even bother naming the musical it’s from! If the show can’t find decent, recognizable songs for guys to sing outside of jukebox musicals, they just aren’t looking hard enough. What about “Beautiful Morning,” from “Oklahoma!” or “Hey There,” from “The Pajama Game,” bitches? Or anything else John Raitt ever sang, for that matter. Is there some sort of pre-Andrew Lloyd Webber ban in effect here? Whatever. Jason does okay with the singing and dancing, but kind of kills the spirit of the song. Much as this show is killing the spirit of Broadway.

Allie sings “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Ah, I was wondering when this oversung gem would turn up. I don’t think Allie gets what this song is about at ALL, but she does an okay job.

Compared to the obviousness of last week’s decision, there aren’t any clear losers this week that I can tell. However, I’d probably kick out Jason and Allie, actually. But that could just be because by the time they performed, I was so sick of Andrew Lloyd Webber and non-Broadway songs that I would have hated the best such performances in the world. My favorite Danny is still definitely Derek, but I think Kate was my favorite Sandy this week. However, this show had better break out some Rogers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Lowe next week, or I’m gonna have to go knock some heads together.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog, good read. Just thought I'd share bit of insight into the fact that the contestants do not pick out anything for, look, clothes, etc. The show producers do it all for them. So it might help when reviewing them.
Many Thanks

Liz said...

Aw, thanks! Hmm...intriguing factoid. I guess I knew in my head that the odds of all the obviously Broadway-loving contestants picking jukebox musical songs were slim, but my heart still couldn't help but castigate them for singing that crap. Thanks for the correction :)